Ta vie means “Your Life” and 旅 means “Journey” in Japanese. The basis of this name was for us to enjoy a chef’s life journey through the different ingredients and products, and creations.
“Pure, Simple and Seasonal”
Ta Vie 旅 is about ingredients, simple cooking and letting the ingredients speak for themselves. No, this is not a sashimi place. Almost nothing is served without meticulous French haute-gourmet techniques.
In the 10-course “Taste of Asian ingredients” degustation menu that we have chosen, the ingredients were picked from the freshest of the season from around Japan.
Chef Hideaki Sato
Sato was born in Nagano prefecture and started cooking in French restaurants before switching over to Japanese cuisine. He worked at the three-Michelin-star Nihonryori RyuGin in Tokyo, then moved to Hong Kong to open the two-star Tenku RyuGin.
Azumino Mineral Water
The Matsumoto Basin, where Azumino 安曇野 is located, is one of the largest inland basins in Japan. The area extends north to Omachi, south to 80km north to south of Shiojiri, west to the foot of the Northern Alps mountain range with Hotaka-dake, and east to the foot of the Chikuma mountains with Kirigamine and Migahara plateau.
The vast amounts of snow and rain falling in these areas soak into the ground and flow as groundwater. Groundwater is filtered as it passes through the granite and sedimentary areas, and the minerals dissolve and become delicious water.
Tasting menu featuring Asian produce
1/ Sweet corn puffed mousse with aburi botan shrimp
Hidden within the light mousse were kernels of crunchy, charred sweet corn. Together with the aburi botan shrimp (牡丹海老) from Hokkaido and the finely diced capsicum, these provided the sweet elements of the dish. Then we have the shrimp gelée on top for the umami, along with really fragrant olive oil for some savory notes.
Ta Vie churned their own butter and ricotta made from the whey from making the butter to go with their in-house nukazuke (糠漬け) bread.
2/ Green asparagus with burrata and Longjing tea leaves
While you cannot really fathom why people put Longjing tea in dishes as they tried it in Hangzhou. Longjing tea does not have a strong flavour profile to lend to the other ingredients. For me, this was not a favourite course. Call me old fashion, but I would like something more tangy (like tomato and balsamic vinegar) to go with burrata.
3/ Homemade pasta with “Aonori” seaweed sauce topped with “Bafun” uni
The Aonori seaweed provided the umami to the al dente pasta, and the Bafun uni just nailed the dish with its creaminess and intensity in flavours. The pasta was like mee pok – now I wished there was some sambal.
4/ “Clam chowder” whelk twist clam, pea and night jasmine with chef’s twist
The bowls with chunks of 真つぶ貝 – the largest and highest-quality whelks were placed in front of us. Another tray was carried table-side, bearing two large whelks. The “chowder” was then poured from the whelks into our bowls – the chef’s twist
What surprised me was the addition of night jasmine (夜來香) into the dish which added a subtle fragrance from the petals. We used to have these climbers growing on our fence and my mom would pluck the flowers to make an egg and flower soup. This really brought back memories.
5/ Deep-fried Taiwanese bamboo short with crispy skin stuffed with Hokkaido scallop
A deep fried dumpling made with Taiwanese bamboo shoot and Hokkaido scallops made into a shape of a bamboo shoot was hidden behind the bamboo sheath. An intricate dish, but in essence was an elaborate deep fried wanton.
6/ “Aori-ika” squid and caviar on black egg custard
The chilled squid ink custard was like a chawanmushi with acidity from capers. It was topped with some bigfin reef squid (アオリイカ) and garnished with some Imperial caviar from Sologne by La Maison Nordique, julienned cucumber, and red onions. The caviar provided the crunch and saltiness, the ika provided the umami. I would do away with the capers the next time I am there.
7/ “Civet” braised abalone covered with “abalone shell”
This is a signature dish of Chef Sato. Braised Civet abalone in its liver sauce, covered with an edible “abalone shell” which was actually puff pastry made to look like the abalone shell. Roasted mushroom and pearl onion provide complexity and an extra layer of texture to the dish.
8/ Charcoal grilled pigeon flavoured with sesame oil, pigeon liver tapenade
The grilled pigeon breast came with a side of shishito and Inca potatoes served with a quenelle of tapenade made with the pigeon’s liver. The pigeon was grilled medium rare, the meat certainly was a tad undercooked, kind of chewy as result.
9/ Jasmine flower with white tea blanc-manger with melon soup
The super sweet Shizuoka musk melon (マスクメロン) pairing with the blanc-manger had the lovely fragrance from jasmine along with some White Hair Silver Needle tea (白毫銀針).
10/ Peach compote, resin crystal, mangosteen, coconuts
Underneath the very thin candy dome sat some delicious peach compote, along with some cloves of fresh mangosteen, springy peach konnyaku, and a quenelle of coconut sorbet. Delicious and refreshing.
If you choose coffee afterwards, it came with a sidekick – Chocolate mousse with kaffir lime leaves.
Shortly after their opening in 2015, Ta Vie got the Michelin nod in 2016 with a lonely star, but quickly that was upgraded to two in 2017. And then they debuted #50 in 2016 on the Top 50 list, and it just got better each year.
One can only hope they get better.
Ta Vie 旅
Entrance at 21 Stanley St, Central, Hong Kong
2/F, The Pottinger, 74 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong
Tel : +852 2668 6488
Date Visited : Jun 2018
Michelin Hong Kong and Macau Guide, 1 Star – 2016, 2 Stars – 2017-19
Also came in #16 for 2018 Asian Top 50 Restaurants by S.Pellgirino & Acqua Panna